NEW YORK • With the Milwaukee Bucks underperforming compared to pre-season expectations, and the clock ticking on Giannis Antetokounmpo's time in their small market, the team fired coach Jason Kidd on Monday.
The unexpected move leaves a team in line for the seventh play-off seed in the National Basketball Association Eastern Conference looking for a new coach who can get more out of a talent-laden roster.
Joe Prunty, one of Kidd's assistants, coached the team to a 109-105 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Monday and will remain in charge on an interim basis.
"We believe that a fresh approach and a change in leadership are needed to continue elevating our talented team towards the next level, bringing us closer to our goal of competing for championships," general manager Jon Horst said in a press statement.
Kidd oversaw a 26-win improvement in 2014-15, his first season as Bucks coach, and led them to the first round of the play-offs in that term and last season. He left with a 139-152 record in 3-1/2 seasons.
Beyond 23-year-old Antetokounmpo, who is signed through to the 2020-21 season, the Bucks have several intriguing young players including 25-year-old Malcolm Brogdon, last season's Rookie of the Year.
They carried a 23-22 record into Monday's game, slightly off their pace from last season.
Elsewhere in the East, there is speculation that Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue's future is under threat and the fractured nature of Cleveland's (27-18) locker room was revealed on Monday.
Several players "challenged the legitimacy" of Kevin Love's recent illness in a "fiery" team meeting before Monday's practice, according to an ESPN report.
They were pushing for the All-Star big man to be held accountable for leaving the arena early following Saturday's blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder after playing just three minutes and for not practising on Sunday.